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I'm still fairly new to programming. I spend most of my time in Ruby, and I'm discovering a certain fondness for playing with regular expressions. That being said, I'm considering taking a look at Perl, just as a hobby. However, I've heard a lot about the Perl community, and none of it good. I've heard the community described as extremely elitist and resistant to inexperienced programmers.

Is this true? If it is, why is that the case?

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closed as not constructive by Mark Trapp Aug 28 '11 at 19:23

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I don't think this is true. I learned some perl after learning ruby and there weren't enough differences in the language to warrant investing more time in it but whenever I had a question people in most places were more than happy to answer. –  davidk01 Apr 22 '11 at 7:02
    
This isn't an answer to your question, but there is little reason for learning Perl when you know Ruby, as Ruby can do almost any good thing that Perl can. Play with Regex in Ruby, and when you want to expand your mind with a different paradigm, learn Haskell. –  Eric Wilson Apr 22 '11 at 14:17
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I'd like to see @tchrist answer this question... –  user1249 Aug 28 '11 at 19:35
    
Advocacy for any language can be done badly, and create a bad impression. One Perl advocate explained a key problem over a decade ago - perl.com/pub/2000/12/advocacy.html –  Steve314 Aug 28 '11 at 21:07
    
I was going to post a long explanation as an answer. But since Mark closed the question, I will instead make do with short comment: produce a reasonable question about Perl (say, RegEx related) - something that shows you did at least basic homework; your existing SO posts seem to indicate you are good at producing quality Qs. Ask it on StackOverflow. Gauge the "community" reaction yourself - both in up/downvotes, comments, and of course, answers. –  DVK Sep 18 '11 at 18:13

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The Perl community is old (as in "has existed for a long time", not "is a bunch of gray-bearded guys"), and thus very diverse. We have RFC-fetishists, UI-enthusiasts, old-timey administrators, new-age administrators, strict traditional developers, agile developers, hobby developers, scientific users, people who mostly work on back-ends, people who work mostly on front-ends, people that only use Perl, and people that using other languages as well, people only writing glue, and people writing big applications.

Perl's a tool, and the community has lots of faces. Each larger project also gathers different communities around them. The Padre community is very open and encouraging, perl5porters on the other hand is stricter, which I like, since they maintain the core. Considering that these people get along fine in real life (I was only at one YAPC yet, but it was a blast), it might all come down to the non-personal nature of IRC and mailing lists, especially in high-frequency channels. Also, since I personally know of many developers who help out on IRC while trying to get their own work done, I see considerable effort to help people, newbies or not.

And then there's the fact that some newbies want answers now, and not documentation that will help them figure out their question better. But since "quick and dirty" doesn't fly with Modern Perl anymore, that's what they often get when the problems or use-cases are too vague.

I won't deny though that many sub-communities in Perl could use a couple more people that are on IRC helping people in their spare time. But I can hardly fault anyone for that, when I have free time for Perl I'm usually not watching the IRC channels but working either on my own modules, or getting some experience with a new library that came out.

So, to sum up: "It depends." If you're interested in the Perl community, I'd suggest looking for a PerlMonger group near you. Some PerlMonger groups give talks during their meetings, but they are mostly social events for hanging around nice people.

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Nowadays I can't say that it's true. However I believe such description of Perl community has it's background in past and anyway you can find elitist in any community around any language.

There's large community around web frameworks like Mojolicious, Catalyst or Dancer and they are very friendly to newbies (not only for framework itself, but for Perl language too).

Also as of I saw, help communities are very friendly to inexperienced programmers.

Just and example I can provide #perl-help channel at irc.perl.org server where you often can get help from extremely experienced Perl programer who often advise you to use right library from CPAN for your case or just help with syntax and regexp. Also #mojo and #dancer channels on the same server are good example of framework communities.

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Depending on your perspective, an elitist reputation might actually be a good thing. See link.

However, this was the first time I'd even heard that Perl had a reputation for elitism. It does have a reputation for producing potentially very cryptic code, that is difficult to maintain. I've used it to good effect though, so meh.

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"Elitism" is pretty far down the list of things that cross my mind when I hear PERL as well. –  Dave Wise Apr 22 '11 at 4:02
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Perl isn't elitist, but from what I see many in the community do seem to consider themselves the elite. So it's the people rather than the language. –  jwenting Apr 22 '11 at 6:12

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